Patient Online is the campaign by NHS England to get everyone going digital with their GP practice.
Despite the £millions in marketing, it has failed to light. Like blowing on wet twigs to start a fire, you just know that blowing harder isn’t going to work.
There are some achievements. 97% of practices offer online services (they have to, it’s in the contract). And 12% of patients have registered to use them. It’s quite easy, do so if you haven’t yet. Repeat prescription orders are running at about 1.3 million a month (all figures from HSCIC)
The problem is with online booking. At 800,000 a month, they are only about 3% of all appointments. 97% are booked in the traditional way, phone up and wait, or turn up and queue.
It’s not hard to see why. The problem for general practice is GP capacity, and online booking saves no time for GPs. There is no incentive to allow patients to book themselves into 10 minutes of GP time, without assessing need.
So practices understandably restrict access to online bookings, typically by requiring at least a week book ahead. 91% of patients needing a GP want the same day, and there’s rarely anything to book into today.
Yet 75% of those same people go online for health information, and 50% use the internet to self diagnose (DH figures, item 6). Why not? They do everything else online.
No, the answer is, we need to enable patients to seek help online. It has to work every time, and it has be from someone they trust, their own practice or GP. 2 out of 3 neither need nor want a 10 minute face to face.
There lies the opportunity which Patient Online has missed. It must work for patients and for GPs. That will self ignite.
Founder, Chief Executive
GP Access Ltd
PS We’ll be talking on this at the King’s Fund conference,
Pressure points: how can we support primary care to cope with increasing demand?
Tuesday 24 November | The King’s Fund, London W1G 0AN
Find out more here